Does It Matter How Many Trump Supporters Came to Washington on Saturday?
Donald Trump began his presidency by asserting, based on “alternative facts,” that he had attracted “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” He is ending his presidency by averring that Saturday’s pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., attracted more than 1 million people. And just as he claimed that he would have won the popular vote in 2016 if it weren’t for “the millions of people who voted illegally,” he is now insisting that the Democrats stole this year’s presidential election by altering “millions of ballots.”
These are fitting bookends for a president who often seems to live in a parallel universe shaped by his ego’s demands. While Trump’s fantasies about massive election fraud may be more consequential than his fictitious crowd numbers, both kinds of misrepresentations reflect his need to twist reality into grotesque but self-flattering shapes. While that tendency is often amusing, it is also more than a little disturbing to anyone who thinks truth should count for something in political debates.
The president’s endorsement of the claim that “more than a MILLION people showed up to support this President” took the form of a retweet. But White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany made the same claim directly. “AMAZING!” she tweeted on Saturday. “More than one MILLION marchers for President @realDonaldTrump descend on the swamp in support.”
It would indeed be amazing, if it were true. Trump himself put the size of the crowd in the “hundreds of thousands” later the same day. But he also said “tens of thousands.” The Washington Post said McEnany was “vastly exaggerating the crowd size.” The Post put the number of participants in the “thousands,” as did The New York Times and Fox News. USA Today went with “tens of thousands.” So did conservative columnist Miranda Devine in a New York Post piece declaring the victory of “Trumpism.”
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